Osprey love triangle; an urban avalanche; Arizona’s ‘crisis’

Mishaps and mayhem from around the region.


MONTANA: Iris, a single-mother osprey, defends her eggs from an intruder.

Forget all the fuss about the newest royal baby to appear in Great Britain; let’s hear it for the giraffe that “entered the world with a thud” at Seattle’s Woodland Park Zoo. Less than an hour after making a 5-foot drop to the ground from Olivia, its mother, the newborn was on all four feet, reports the Seattle Times, lurching about “like a baby Bambi.” The zoo said it would hold a “community contest” to name the new giraffeling. The newborn — typically about 6 feet tall at birth — is expected to double its height in a year. But baby needed a new pair of shoes in record time: The zoo recently outfitted him with “therapeutic shoes” to treat abnormalities in his legs.

Another youngster made news near the South San Francisco exit on Highway 101 during morning rush hour: a sea lion pup that wandered away from the beach and was “loitering on the freeway,” according to the California Highway Patrol. Before officers could arrive, reports the Los Angeles Times, several commuters stopped to help, one waving a handkerchief to “herd the mammal to safety.” Surprisingly, when patrol cars arrived, the baby sea lion “willingly jumped right into the backseat.” Apparently healthy and uninjured, the pup was taken to the Peninsula Humane Society.

Meanwhile, in Missoula, Montana, an osprey named Iris, who has successfully fledged over 40 chicks in the last two decades, fell victim to a love triangle. Abandoned by her two-timing mate, who is hanging out at another osprey nest, she is trying to incubate two eggs on her own, reports ABCFoxMontana. Erick Greene, wildlife biologist and professor at the University of Montana, said that nesting seasons often imitate soap operas, and this year is no exception, with Iris working a double shift as a “single mom.” How this will affect her struggling family isn’t clear: “There isn’t much research” involving a “male osprey spending time with two ladies.”

If you ever find yourself completely buried by wet snow, which can almost immediately set up like concrete, it helps to have taken avalanche-training classes. In Crested Butte, Colorado, maintenance man Alex Theaker, 28, had taken such classes, so when he was shoveling out a vent on a client’s house and heard ice cracking on the roof, he knew what was up, or coming down, rather: A snow slide plunging toward him. Theaker ran, but couldn’t escape it. Yet before the cold mass of snow hardened around him, he bought himself time by throwing up his arms “to form a basketball-sized pocket around his head,” as Katie Eastman and Anne Herbst reported for 9News. He was also able to see a crack of light and pushed his hands toward it, creating an air tunnel. For the next two and a half hours, Theaker remained trapped under the snow, barely breathing. His wife, Tori, who had gone searching for him, called rescuers, but before they shoveled him out, Theaker had plenty of time to think about her, he recalled. He also thought about his friend Brad, who had died in an avalanche, as well as another friend who died last year. Luckily, he was sustained by the soundtrack to his ordeal — “the rapper in his right ear,” Tupac Shakur. But he passed out at some point and eventually woke up in a hospital. During his overnight stay, a nurse told him that another young man had been brought in who was also buried by a roof slide. Sadly, the second patient, Stephen Michael Martel, died that night. A few days later, Theaker said he attended a memorial service for Martel — “an incredible guy” — and felt he was attending what might have been his own farewell. These days, he says, Theaker intends “to make the most of the life he almost didn’t have.”

Another avalanche accident, this one in the high-elevation backcountry of Teton County, Wyoming, occurred while a group of friends took turns snowmobiling people uphill so they could ski back down. A 28-year-old woman was waiting for a ride when a snowmobiler above her triggered an avalanche, reports the Jackson Hole Daily. The woman saw the wall of snow “flowing toward her” but couldn’t get out of the way fast enough. Witnesses saw her become engulfed and carried about 450 feet. Unfortunately, the beacon she was wearing wasn’t turned on. But a “probe strike” was able to locate her, and when rescuers freed her from the snow, she was alive, though “cold and pretty shaken up.” She was taken to a hospital for observation. 

The Republican Legislature in Arizona has taken a stand about what it describes in dark terms as the state’s “public health crisis.” If you guessed measles, or opioid addiction, or perhaps an epidemic of suicides or increasing homelessness, you’d be wrong. No; according to Republicans, pornography has created a public health crisis because its sexual images are “poisoning” the minds of Arizonans. Democrats seemed baffled by the resolution, which was largely symbolic, report the Arizona Republic. “I think we really need to focus on those types of things that are life-threatening and fatal and could spread so quickly to anybody,” said Sen. Jamescita Peshlakai, a Democrat from Window Rock.

Tips and photos of Western oddities are appreciated and often shared in this column. Write [email protected] or tag photos #heardaroundthewest on Instagram.


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